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January 24, 2017 / 26 Tevet, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘Shabbos’

Shabbos Mevorchim Teves

Friday, December 23rd, 2016

We bentch Rosh Chodesh Teves on Shabbos, Erev Chanukah, with Rosh Chodesh falling on Yom Shishi, Friday, the sixth day of Chanukah. Six of the thirty-six lights kindled on Chanukah represent the number of days of the Yom Tov we celebrate in Kislev, with the balance of thirty corresponding to the thirty days in Teves – one of the dreariest and darkest months of the year.

We fast on Assara b’Teves, the tenth of the month, marking the beginning of the destruction of Jerusalem. On the eighth day of Teves the Greeks forced the Sages of Israel to translate the Torah into Greek, casting a spiritual darkness upon the Jewish people. The lights of Chanukah lit during Teves serve to illuminate all of its days and nullify the forces of evil.

The attribute of the month of Teves is rogez (anger), numerically equivalent to yirah (fear). Yiras Hashem (fear of Hashem), a lofty objective we continuously strive to achieve, transforms the negative element of Teves into positive, spiritual fulfillment. A total of fifteen lights are lit in Teves, on the last two nights of Chanukah. Intriguingly, the mispar katan (reduced numerical value) of fifteen (1 plus 5) equals six. With the insertion of that one letter – vav (six) – the month of Teves would become tovas, goodness.

The Capricorn (Teves’s zodiac sign) native is disciplined, serious and responsible, though prone to depression. The ayin, the letter by which this month was formed, symbolizes the evil influence of Eisav. The tribe associated with Teves is Dan, indicative of severe judgment (din). Conversely, the eye (ayin) that influences the heart has the capacity to subdue the evil inclination and thus mitigate the harsh judgment. The gedee (goat), the symbol of Teves, is equal in numerical value to tov (goodness). Indeed, those born under the sign of the gedee are survivors, despite their pessimistic tendencies.

Tzaddikim whose yahrzeits are observed in Teves include Avrohom Avinu (1 Teves); R’ Chaim Shlomo ben R’ Yehosef – Koson (6 Teves); Ezra HaSofer (9 Teves); R’ Moshe ben R’ Dovid Biderman – Lelover Rebbe (13 Teves); Reuven ben Yaakov Avinu (14 Teves); R’ Yaakov ben Wolf Krantz – Dubna Maggid (17 Teves); R’ Tzvi Elimelech ben R’ Pesach – Bnei Yisaschor; Rabbeinu Moshe ben Maimon – Rambam (20 Teves); Shimon ben Yaakov Avinu (21 Teves); R’ Shneur Zalman of Liadi – Baal HaTanya (24 Teves); R’ Shmuel ben R’ Avrohom Borenstein – Shem MiShmuel (24 Teves); R’ Shamshon Raphael Hirsch and R’ Pinchas ben R’ Chaim Hirschprung (27 Teves).

Reb Tzvi (Hersh) Elimelech Shapira of Dinov was born to Reb Pesach and his wife (the niece of Reb Elimelech of Lizhensk and Reb Zusha). Reb Tzvi Elimelech was a revered posek hador and gaon who authored several highly acclaimed holy works. Prominent among the seforim he penned is the Bnei Yisaschor, a compilation of his penetrating observations on the Yomim Tovim.

The Bnei Yisaschor, as R’ Tzvi Elimelech became known as, was especially attuned to the Yom Tov of Chanukah. An extraordinary light of kedusha would envelop him at such time, as is reflected in his extensive writings on the holiday. Mystified as to the source of this predilection and rationalizing that he could not possibly be a progeny of the Chashmonayim, for he was not a Kohen, he decided to consult the Chozeh of Lublin who he felt could surely enlighten him. And enlighten him the Chozeh did… elucidating that R’ Tzvi Elimelech was a descendant of Shevet Yisaschor and had, moreover, sat on the Sanhedrin of the Beis Din of the Chashmonayim that originally instituted the Yom Tov of Chanukah. It was this revelation that compelled R’ Tzvi Elimelech to give his sefer on the moadim the title Bnei Yisaschor.

A fascinating story is told about one of his granddaughters. Rivkale was an esteemed tzadeikes, born to Reb Tzvi Elimelech’s son Reb Shmuel and raised in the home of her uncle Reb Dovid (her father’s brother), as her father had passed away at a young age.

When Rivkale suddenly took ill in her early nineties, her only son, who lived a distance away, was summoned to quickly come to her bedside. As he neared his mother’s home, the sound of women sobbing emanating from within made him fear the worst. As he entered her room, Rivkale lifted her head and said that her grandfather, the Bnei Yisaschor, had just appeared to her and said, “I am your zeida, your father’s father, and I’ve come to assure you that if you will taste the food that has been prepared for the holy Shabbos, you will immediately regain your strength and will light the Shabbos candles.”

Though this was Friday, no food had yet been prepared for Shabbos due to the tumult pervading the household. The Shabbos challos had, however, been baked the previous day. As a piece of challa dipped in milk made it to the lips of the sickly Rivkale, she began to show immediate signs of improvement. She not only lit the candles that erev Shabbos but also partook of the Shabbos repast and went on to live for another couple of years. Her miraculous recovery was witnessed and documented by her young great-grandson who had accompanied his grandfather, Rivkale’s son, to bid farewell to their righteous forbear.

Some tidbits of wisdom contained in the Bnei Yissachar as relate to Chanukah: The numerical value of the four Hebrew letters of the dreidel that are an abbreviation for the words “nes gadol haya sham – a great miracle happened there” is 358 – which is also the numerical value of the word “Moshiach.”

As we’ve previously touched on in this column, the twelve shevatim correspond to the twelve months of the year. Tishrei, when the first Bais HaMikdosh was dedicated, is linked with Ephraim; Kislev, the month that saw the second Bais HaMikdosh rededicated, is associated with Binyamin. Ultimately, the darkness of Cheshvan will dissipate and a new light will dawn with the rebuilding of the Bais HaMikdosh during Cheshvan, the month that corresponds to Menashe. The common trait of these three months is the shevatim representing them: all are of the children of Rochel Imeinu, the Akeres Habayis (the Bais HaMikdosh)!


This essay is dedicated l’ilui nishmas my dear mother, Sara bas Bentzion, a”h, whose 9th yahrtzeit falls on the 27th day in Teves. As I will light a yahrzeit candle, I will try to remember to express my profound gratitude to Hashem for having endowed us with the gift of parents who epitomized the noble characteristics of our elite ancestors.

Rachel Weiss

Shabbos Mevorchim Kislev

Friday, November 25th, 2016

As I bathe in the soothing warmth of my window’s sun-drenched glass pane on this chilly November day, I marvel at the striking exhibition of contrasts: a bright sun in a gloriously blue sky casting its rays through the starkly-bare branches of the towering maple trees. My eyes follow a bluebird’s mid-air flight and graceful landing upon the bed of fallen leaves blanketing the earth. It contemplates, I imagine, how to extract its nourishment hiding beneath nature’s fall ground cover.

Life is full of contradictions, twists and turns… as borne out by the spectacular political landscape recently unfolding in our midst. While a shell-shocked world and media scramble to make sense of numbers they hadn’t counted on, we who are aware that Hashem’s handiwork is in perpetual motion know that only One vote was essentially at play…

We bentch Rosh Chodesh Kislev on Shabbos Parshas Chaya Sora, with Rosh Chodesh falling on Yom Chamishi (Thursday, December 1). The month of Kislev is represented by the sign of the bow which is held against the archer’s heart, its arrows hurling upwards – like the prayers emanating from the depth of the human heart to the heavens above (Shem MiShmuel).

The month of Kislev celebrates the liberation of two chassidic luminaries: Rav Shneur Zalman of Liadi, first Lubavitcher Rebbe, who was released from incarceration in Russia on the 19th of Kislev in the year 1798, and Rav Yoel Teitelbaum, the Satmar Rebbe, who was rescued from the Bergen-Belson concentration camp on the 21st of Kislev in 1944.

The letter corresponding to Kislev is samech (denoting “support”). Closed on all sides, the samech is symbolic of a fortress of protection. The attribute of this month is sleep – ironic, in that Sagittarians are an adventurous, athletic sort, brimming with optimism and willing to fight for what they believe in. They exude confidence and are gifted with foresight, wisdom and organizational skill. That is, if they focus their month’s energy in a positive versus negative direction. This applies as well to the organ of the body associated with Kislev, the stomach. While both sleep and food are essential to human survival, overindulging in either can be detrimental to our well-being.

The element of the month of Kislev is fire. The tiny spark that lies within each Yiddishe neshama ignites a burning desire for spiritual fulfillment – in direct contrast to the obsession with materialism and physicality that dominated the Syrian-Greek culture of that dark and dismal period in our history. The Jewish nation thankfully emerged from their spiritual slumber just in time…

Undaunted and undeterred by the relentless harassment of their oppressors, Matisyahu and his five sons took up arms and fanned the flames of their zealousness in revolt against their tormentors. With a resolute faith in Hashem, the weak and the few conquered the strong and the many, the pure overcoming the impure, in a triumphant battle that culminated in the joy and light of Chanukah.

Ushered in on the eve of the 24th of Kislev, Chanukah celebrates the miracle Hashem performed for His people in recognition of their intense emunah and steadfast belief that He would guide them to victory, despite unbelievable odds. The potency of the holy light of Chanukah commemorating the minute amount of oil that burned for eight days in the Beis HaMikdash shines upon us to conquer the darkness. Proper adherence to the mitzvah further purifies our souls.

Speaking of the purity of souls, tzaddikim whose yahrzeits are observed in Kislev include R’ Shmuel Eliezer HaLevi Eidels ben R’ Yehuda – the Maharsha (5 Kislev); R’ Yecheskel Shraga Halberstam, Stropkover Rebbe (6 Kislev); R’ Dov Ber Schneerson ben R’ Shneur Zalman of Liadi (2nd Lubavitcher “Mitteler” Rebbe); R’ Aharon ben R’ Shneur Zalman Kotler (9 Kislev); R’ Shlomo Luria Ashkenazi, the Maharshal; R’ Avraham Dov ben Dovid of Avritch – Bas Ayin (12 Kislev); R’ Yehuda HaNasi ben R’ Shimon ben Gamliel (15 Kislev); R’ Dov Ber ben R’ Avraham – Maggid of Mezritch (19 Kislev); Shimon ben Yaakov Avinu and R’ Chaim Chizkiyahu Medini – Sdei Chemed (24 Kislev).

Rav Shmuel Eliezer Eidels was a descendent of Rabbi Yehuda HaChassid and Rav Akiva HaKohen (father-in-law of the Shela HaKadosh). His mother’s predecessor was the Maharal of Prague. Rav Shmuel Eliezer adopted the name Eidels in appreciation for his affluent mother-in-law Rebbetzin Eidel Lifshitz (widow of Rabbi Moshe Lifshitz, the rav of Brisk), who was not only instrumental in making the match between her daughter and the Maharsha but also graciously provided their sustenance in support of her son-in-law’s Avodas Hashem.

In his Chidushei Aggados, the Maharsha recounts the story of a corrupt individual who one day approached a noted Chacham in his quest to alter his errant ways. Expressing deep regret over his sinful past, he appealed for a tikun – albeit one he’d be able to withstand. The Chacham acquiesced after being assured of the remorseful man’s sincerity. The remedy he prescribed was simple enough: from that day onward the penitent was never, under any circumstance, to tell a lie.

With the passing of time, the man’s evil inclination goaded him into reverting to his crooked ways. As he ventured out with his tools, intent on carrying out a robbery, he met up with an acquaintance who asked him where he was off to. Having trained himself to tell the truth, he did just that. Continuing on his way, he crossed paths with another curious wayfarer. Heeding the Chacham’s directive once again, the man was open about his objective.

Shortly thereafter he was struck by the sudden realization that there were now two witnesses who could, and in all likelihood would, expose him to the authorities. He promptly regretted his course of action and abandoned his nefarious plan.

Those of us who were lacking in spiritual vigor during the recent Yomim Noraim can take heart; it is written that Chanukah, commemorating the rededication of the Bais HaMikdash, is a most effectual time for teshuvah and renewal. “Tosheiv enosh ad daka – you turn man back until [his afflictions] weaken him, [his pride is crushed … and his arrogance turns to humility], and you call on him to repent” (Tehillim 90:3). The word daka (weakened) has a numerical value of 25, signifying the 25th day of Kislev (a month that is astrologically characteristic of inner strength and wisdom in judgment).

The dalet of daka is indicative of dirah (home), alluding to the mezuzah on the right of the entrance door to our home; the kaf stands for keilim (utensils), alluding to the menorah which is placed on the left, opposite the mezuzah; and the alef is for adam (man), who is in the center and repents – returning until he is “weakened.” The menorah’s brilliant light illuminates the mezuzah that serves as a constant reminder of the Torah presence in our midst. Flanked by mitzvos on either side, we stand at the door, ready to greet the imminent arrival of the light of Moshiach.

Appropriately, the shevet of Binyamin is representative of the month of Kislev. The youngest of the tribes, he is “the beloved one of Hashem … Who protects him forever” (Moshe’s blessing to Binyamin) and on whose territory stood the part of the Bais HaMikdash that housed the Mizbeach and Kodshei Kedoshim. May we merit partaking in the Chanukas HaBayis, inauguration, of the third Bais HaMikdash speedily in our day.


This essay is dedicated l’ilui nishmas my dear father R’ Yaakov Tovia ben R’ Boruch z”l whose 7th yahrzeit falls on the 24th of Kislev, Erev Chanukah.

Rachel Weiss

Ah Gooten Shabbos (On Stamps)

Friday, October 21st, 2016

Although Shabbat, as we know, is among the fundamental pillars that support the continued existence of the world, it is a very rare subject indeed for postage stamps around the globe. Displayed here are the few stamps specifically presenting the Shabbat theme. (If readers are aware of any others, I would appreciate hearing from you.)


Israel Shabbat Stamp


Israel has issued a variety of Sabbath-related stamps. Exhibited here is, in my opinion, the most beautiful of them all (Scott 631, 1977) which depicts a lovely Sabbath embroidered cloth used to cover the challah loaves during Kiddush. The inscription on the challah cover reads “For the honor of Shabbat” and the stamp label at the bottom cites the pasuk (Exodus 31:16) “And the Jewish people will observe the Sabbath to celebrate the Sabbath throughout their generations as an eternal covenant.” Other Shabbat-related Israel stamps include depictions of Sabbath lamps, wine cups, Havdalah spice boxes, etc., but this is the only one specifically referring to Sabbath observance.



Shabbat Stamp Issued By
Keren Kayemet L’Yisrael (Jewish National Fund)


Shown here is a lovely Shabbat stamp issued in 1988by the Jewish National Fund. The modern colorful design depicts a Shabbat candelabra atop of which is written, in Hebrew, Shabbat Shalom. Though the first KKL/JNF labels have been issued continuously since 1902 and were strictly for fund-raising purposes, including for the redemption of land in Eretz Yisrael, these labels were twice used as actual postage stamps for a brief period of time.

First, these labels were used on mail sent locally among the first Jewish colonies in Eretz Yisrael, as the Austrian postal service operating there at the time agreed to deliver mail posted with the KKL Zion stamp – an arrangement that came to an unhappy end when it was disclosed to the ruling Turkish authorities, who were not pleased.

Second, after the main road to Jerusalem was blocked by the Arabs in 1948, postal services became very dangerous and was finally stopped completely on April 25, 1948, with the British Mandate postal services in Tel Aviv and Haifa ending officially on May 5, 1948. Pursuant to a decision by Minhelet Ha’am (the People’s Administration Council), the use of KKL labels was authorized for use throughout Eretz Yisrael until the first stamps of the new Jewish state could be issued. Though the first Israeli stamps, called Doar Ivri, were issued on May 16, 1948, the KKL labels continued to be used as postage for some time thereafter until the new Israel stamps could be broadly distributed.


Danish Shabbat Stamp


In my collection of many hundreds of Judaica stamps and labels from around the world, this stamp from Denmark (Scott 766, 1984) is perhaps my favorite. It lovingly depicts a woman lighting Shabbat candles over a table set with a wine cup and challahs covered by a cloth marked Shabbat Shalom in Hebrew.

The stamp was issued to mark three centuries of Jewish religious rights in Denmark. On December 16, 1684, King Christian V issued an ordinance to the chief of police in Copenhagen allowing two Jews to hold a religious service in their homes, mornings and evenings, together with other members of the “Jewish Nation.”



Shabbat Stamp Issued By Mozambique


Exhibited here is a 2011 Mozambique stamp depicting artist Samuel Hirszenberg and his painting Sabbath Rest (1894), a famous and oft-reproduced touching image of a multi-generational Jewish family sitting in repose at the Shabbat table after lunch, enjoying both the rest and the warm sunlight streaming in from the room’s window. The original painting can be found in the Ben Uri Gallery at the London Museum of Jewish Art. (This stamp was one in a series of six Jewish artists, which also included Camille Pissarro, Amedeo Modigliani, Moritz Oppenheim, Maurycy Gottlieb, and Chaim Goldberg.)

Hirszenberg (1865-1908) is considered one of the two greatest Jewish painters in turn-of-the century Poland. Raised as an Orthodox Jew, he became an active Zionist who, inspired by the idea of Jewish national revival, created a series of works depicting the displacement of East European Jews and became among the first to introduce the Jewish artist as a cultural critic and as an advocate for Jewish political and social concerns.


Shabbat Label Issued by Tomor


The Tomor label exhibited here, The Beginning of the Sabbath, depicts an early 20th century Jewish German family on a typical Friday evening. The lady of the house has just completed lighting the candles, and her husband and son are heading out to synagogue for Shabbat evening services.

Tomor is a kosher dairy-free margarine made in Germany, and the “Sana-Gessellschaft” (Sana Company) of Kleve Kosher Tomor margarine issued collector promotional labels (circa 1904) illustrating various Jewish scenes with German subtitles. Sana’s parent company was the Van den Bergh Margarine Works, founded by Simon Van der Bergh (1819-1907), a Dutch industrialist and an Orthodox Jew. His business manager, John Manger, established the Sana Company around 1900 as an independent factory exclusively for kosher products, including the Tomor brand, which remains known to this day.


Shabbat Stamp Sheetlet Issued By Tongo


Shown here is The Sabbath, a 1987 souvenir sheet issued by Tongo in honor of the centenary of the birth of artist Marc Chagall (1887-1985). In classic cubic style in which he has apparently drawn stylistically from Van Gogh’s The Workshop and Night Café, Chagall illustrates a peasant Jewish household on Friday night. The particular emphasis of the 1909 painting is upon a Shabbat table highlighted by two halos of light, the first a yellow circle surrounding the lit candles on the table, and the second a colored sphere of light shining forth from the lamp hanging above the table. The only wall decoration, a lonely clock, suggests the timelessness of Shabbat and the concept of religious time prevailing over human time.

It is obviously Friday night, as the lit candles are still burning bright, and it is clearly well after the Shabbat dinner (the clock reads 11:15). The six figures are in various stages of sleep or rest, including a variety of “Chagall-esqe” contorted positions. Time seems to have stood still, and they are all waiting.

Saul Jay Singer

Shabbos Mevorchim Tishrei

Friday, September 30th, 2016

Well, not really. And we surely don’t need to be reminded that the first of Tishrei is near at hand. This is not to infer that Tishrei, the seventh month of our lunar cycle and one of major significance, is not blessed. Quite the contrary; according to the teachings of the holy Baal Shem Tov, Hashem Himself bentches Chodesh Tishrei – the month that celebrates the beginning of man.

As the fervor of our tefillos intensify with each passing day of Elul, it is up to each of us to heed that yearning deep within our souls to cleave to our Creator Who benevolently beckons us to draw from the light and blessings inherent in the month of Tishrei.

The astrological nature of this month is mating – aptly, since Tishrei memorializes the anniversary of Adam and Chava, the first husband and wife. It didn’t take them long, however, to mar the beauty of their haven in Gan Eden. Notwithstanding the interference and influence of an outside force, man’s first transgression brought about Judgment Day for all time.

Rosh Hashanah on the first of Tishrei comes to assure us that we needn’t despair, for Hashem, our Heavenly Father, is eager to accept our teshuvah and wipe our slate clean. What loftier way to celebrate our collective birthday than by searching our souls and purging ourselves of defilement accumulated over the course of the year?

Aseres Yemei Teshuvah, as the first ten days of Tishrei are referred to, culminate in the holiest day of the year, Yom Kippur – a day that has signified forgiveness since Moshe Rabbeinu’s descent from the Heavens with the new Tablets, after having successfully pleaded our case before Hashem.

Sadly, we have no Moshe Rabbeinu to take up our cause. Yet, with sincere confession, fasting and abstinence from earthly pleasures we hope and pray that the Ribono Shel Olam will hearken to our cries and nullify any looming harsh decrees. Should the prosecuting angel, G-d forbid, present a convincing argument and prevent the scale in the Heavenly Court from tipping in our favor, we may yet have our say in the Court of Appeals until Hoshanah Rabbah on the 21st of Tishrei.

The holy letter by which the month of Tishrei was formed is the lamed – at the center of, and towering above, all the other letters of the aleph-beis. The lamed symbolizes the heart (lev). The month of Tishrei, filled with more holidays than any other month, is the heart of the year and spiritually rejuvenates the soul, just as the human heart revitalizes all the other organs (Sefer Yetzirah).

The tribe representative of Tishrei is Ephraim, son of Yosef HaTzaddik, whose blessing from Yaakov, “V’yidgu larov bekerev haaretz – may they multiply like fish to become many in the midst of the earth,” correlates with Hashem’s commandment to Adam on the day of his creation to be “fruitful and multiply.”

While our stature is on an elevated plane from the first of the month, it is the fifteenth day that brings out our inner joy, when we reconnect with our Maker and happily demonstrate our faith and belief in the One Who protected us in the wilderness with His infinite kindness.

We delight in the mitzvah of eating in a sukkah – a lovingly constructed and decorated temporary dwelling under the open skies, exposed to the elements and devoid of modern luxury – in a modest show of not taking our existence for granted and acknowledging our transitory status here on earth.

Through the mitzvos we perform on Sukkos, we accrue merit for the forgiveness of our sins and for the protection of our bodies as we enter the new year. The holiday of Sukkos finally peaks on Simchas Torah, when we unite in love with our Creator. How appropriate that the planet Venus – the heavenly body famed for arousing passion (Shabbos 156a) – rules Tishrei.

Some of the righteous souls whose yahrtzeits are observed during Tishrei include: Sarah Imeinu (1 Tishrei); Naftali ben Yaakov Avinu (5 Tishrei); Zevulun ben Yaakov Avinu (7 Tishrei); R’ Baruch Schneerson – father of the Baal HaTanya (8 Tishrei); Rabi Akiva ben Yosef (10 Tishrei); R’ Akiva Eiger ben Moshe, R’ Shmuel, the Rebbe MaHaRash, and R’ Chaim Berlin ben Naftali Zvi Yehuda (13 Tishrei); R’ Yisroel ben Shabsay – Maggid of Kozhnitz (14 Tishrei); Yaakov Avinu (15 Tishrei); R’ Nachman of Breslov ben Simcha (18 Tishrei); R’ Eliyahu ben Shlomo Zalman – Vilna Gaon (19 Tishrei); R’ Levi Yitzchok ben Sora Sosha (the Berdichever) and R’ Moshe Sofer ben Shmuel – Chassam Sofer (25 Tishrei); Don Yitzchok Abarbanel and R’ Menachem Mendel ben Chaim of Vizhnitz (29 Tishrei).

The scales (upon which man’s deeds are weighed in the Heavenly Court) signify the month of Tishrei and manifestly impact the Libra’s persona. A sense of balance is vital to Libra’s well-being — whose tendency to be brusque can easily be forgiven in light of her relentless pursuit of justice, peace and harmony.

The Tishrei native does best in a calm environment and thrives in a loving relationship. True to the nature of the month, she has a big heart – which can make the less-seasoned Libra vulnerable to the serpent’s charm.

Those born in Tishrei are intuitive and adept at dispensing advice – but can become argumentative in the process. They are slow to anger and generally guided by logic and common sense, yet are sensitive and innately spiritual.

Prone to analyzing a situation from all sides, they tend to exhaust themselves by thinking too deeply into matters. This in turn exacerbates their propensity for procrastination…and may explain why I always seem to be burning the midnight oil to complete a column for the deadline date (barely).

I’ve always considered my emergence into this world on the 16th of Tishrei, the second day of Sukkos, a privilege. For as far back as I can recall, my birthday was always acknowledged in our beautifully-decorated sukkah… where over the years I never tired of listening to my parents a”h recounting how they couldn’t make it to the hospital and had to summon a midwife from the neighborhood (in the small town of Szerencs in Hungary). My father fervently recited Tehillim in their loft sukkah as the heart-rending sounds of my mother in childbirth could be heard from below. Incidentally, Szerencs means “luck” (as in mazal), and the town has forever been known for its famed chocolate factory. Did I neglect to mention that Libras are nibblers, with chocolate among their favorites?

On a somber note, whereas one’s birthday is certainly cause for celebration, there is hardly a more suitable occasion for introspection… or a more ideal time to re-evaluate the raison d’être for one’s existence in this world. In the past year, have I sought in earnest to live up to my potential? Am I fulfilling the divine mission I was sent here to accomplish?

On Rosh Hashanah, even as we express contrition for our wrongdoings and resolve to do better in the years ahead, we convey our heartfelt gratitude to Hashem for all He’s given us and beseech Him to continue guiding us along the path forged for us by our righteous forbears.

May each and every one of us be inscribed for a Shana Tovah Umetukah, a good and sweet year, with peace and harmony among us all.


Written l’ilui nishmas Toby (Rapaport) Weber (Toba Reizel bas Moshe a”h), a beloved and sorely missed school chum whose 16th yahrtzeit falls on Rosh Hashanah.

Rachel Weiss

Let Us Violate Shabbat So As To Sanctify It

Sunday, September 4th, 2016

“He who wants to enter the holiness of the [Sabbath] day must first lay down the profanity of clattering commerce, of being yoked to toil. He must go away from the screech of dissonant days, from the nervousness and fury of acquisitiveness and the betrayal in embezzling his own life. He must say farewell to manual work and learn to understand that the world has already been created and will survive without the help of man. Six days a week we wrestle with the world, wringing profit from the earth; on the Sabbath we especially care for the seed of eternity planted in the soul. The world has our hands, but our soul belongs to Someone Else….

The seventh day is the exodus from tension, the liberation of man from his own muddiness, the installation of man as a sovereign in the world of time….

The Sabbaths are our great  cathedrals; and our Holy of Holies is a shrine that neither the Romans nor the Germans were able to burn…”

(Abraham Joshua Heschel, The Sabbath: Its Meaning for Modern Man [NY: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1951] pp. 13, 29, 8)

Shabbat is serious business, not only because of its halachic requirements but also because of its magnificent and majestic message. To violate it is not just a transgression but a tragedy. Its desecration undermines what it means to be human and to be a real Jew. It deprives mankind of its own sublimity.

It is not the renouncement of technical progress that Shabbat requires but rather the attainment of some degree of independence from an ever-increasing race and cruel struggle for our physical existence, in which we are all involved and which denies us embracing the presence of an eternal moment.

There is only one sanctity that is even greater than Shabbat and that is the holiness of the human being. When we have to choose between these two sanctities, Jewish law is clear: The human being takes precedence. (Yoma 85b; Rambam, Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Shabbat 2:3)

If it is true that the Tel Aviv Light Rail and the high-speed train connecting Tel Aviv and Yerushalayim will indeed save countless human lives by having people switch from car to rail, Halacha will without any doubt demand of us to work on Shabbat to complete construction as soon as possible. Any postponement would be a terrible violation of Halacha itself.

But as Jews, let us make it into a celebration. We can observe Shabbat while working on this holy day. Instead of asking non-Jews to take our place, let us gather as many religious Jews as possible to join in this undertaking and do this work in the spirit of Shabbat and Halacha. Here are some suggestions:

We can organize shacks at the work sites where some people will make Kiddush and where a special Shabbat atmosphere will be created and tasteful Shabbat meals, kept warm according to the laws of Shabbat, will be served. There will be alternate minyanim where the workers can hear the reading of the parsha and say their Shabbat prayers in shifts. Participants can sing Shabbat songs and someone can say a nice d’var Torah informing everyone of the great mitzvah they are performing by working on the holy Shabbat so as to save lives.

Lets us give all the workers colored Shabbat helmets and ask all others who stand by to give instructions to wear nice kippot.

There can be flags and ribbons flying and large posters displayed at the work sites proclaiming: “The people of Israel shall keep the Shabbat, observing the Shabbat throughout the ages as a covenant for eternity.”(Shemot 31:16);“And one shall live by them [My laws]” (Vayikra 18:5)… “and not die because of them.” (Sanhedrin 74a)

Let us make a Jewish celebration out of this. We can show our fellow Israelis and the world that we love Shabbat but that it will not stand in the way of the sanctity of human life. It will actually advance our spirit and commitment to Judaism. Let us reveal that Halacha can deal with the requirements of a modern democratic Jewish state in an unprecedented way.

This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Let us not fail to live up to the challenge of making us all proud to be committed Jews.

After all, is it not Shabbat that made us Jews and that now gives meaning to the State of Israel? Why, in fact, be Jewish if not for this great institution called Shabbat?

Sure, some of my readers will say that these suggestions are insane. But let us not forget what philosopher and writer George Santayana once said: Sanity is madness put to good use.

Rabbi Dr. Nathan Lopes Cardozo

Shabbos Mevorchim Elul

Friday, August 26th, 2016

Notwithstanding the soaring outdoor temperatures signaling summer in full swing, the gradually shrinking daylight hours are a sober reminder that Elul is soon upon us. Actually, we bentch the new month of Elul on this coming Shabbos, Parshas Eikev, Rosh Chodesh falling on the following Shabbos Kodesh and Sunday Yom Rishon (September 3 and 4).

With the first of Elul we begin a 40-day period during which we strive to find favor in the eyes of our Father in heaven – an auspicious time in that it commemorates the arousal of divine mercy after Moshe Rabbeinu pleaded with Hashem on our behalf for forgiveness for the sin of the cheit ha’eigel.

To that end, we women enjoy special status every Rosh Chodesh as reward for having spurned the demands of our spouses to hand over our gold jewelry for the purpose of constructing the golden calf.

Deep contemplation, loyalty, ambition and intelligence define the traits of one born in Elul, the month symbolized by Virgo, a sign of purity. The letters of Elul are equal in numerical value to those of binah (understanding), considered to be a feminine characteristic. Elul is the acronym for ani l’dodi v’dodi li (I am for my beloved and my beloved is for me), bespeaking our desire to come close to our soulmate – our Creator.

The holy letter associated with Elul is the yud, the first letter of Hashem’s name and the point that begins the formation of every Hebrew letter. The body part representative of the month is the left arm, which is close to the heart.

Gad is the shevet linked to Elul, the tribe that chose its territory outside of the camp of Israel so as to be close to where Moshe was interred. This is indicative of our desire to be close to the “King in the field.”

Prominent among the many tzaddikim whose yahrtzeits are observed during Elul is Rav Yekusiel Yehudah Teitelbaum, the Yetev Lev, son of Reb Elazar Nissan (the only son of the Yismach Moshe) and grandfather of the Satmar Rebbe, Rav Yoel, the son of Kedushas Yom-Tov (one of four sons of the Yetev Lev). As a mere child of seven, R’ Yekusiel Yehudah (Zalman Leib in Yiddish) was already learning in concert with his father and grandfather, the Yismach Moshe.

The Yetev Lev married the daughter of the tzaddik R’ Moshe Ashkenazi of Toltchwa who at the age of 70 migrated to the Holy Land to become rav of Tzfas. At the age of 25 the Yetev Lev was appointed rav of Stropkov. With the petirah of the Yismach Moshe eight years later, he left his post in Stropkov at the behest of his father who asked him to assume his grandfather’s position as rav of Ujhel in Hungary.

Eventually he became rav of Sighet, in which capacity he served for the rest of his years. An incredible incident came to light at the levaya of the Yetev Lev, recounted by Reb Moshe Aryeh Freund, who had been the Rosh Hakehal of Sighet.

A man once came to the Yetev Lev and asked R’ Moshe Aryeh to fill out a kvittel for him as he had urgent need to speak with the Rebbe. But as soon as he was escorted into the Rebbe’s chamber, he collapsed as if from heat exhaustion. Curiously, he was revived for just long enough to repeat his performance. After finally regaining his composure, he asked for privacy and spent a while with the Yetev Lev behind closed doors.

When he emerged, he inquired about transit to the bus station and went on his way. Eager to know the reason for his initial reaction, R’ Moshe Aryeh hastened to catch up to the stranger. Only after R’ Moshe Aryeh’s persistence did the man agree to share his story, on condition that it would not travel further…

This man’s father had been a wealthy merchant and an upstanding Jew who adhered strictly to Torah and mitzvos and religiously closed his shop no later than noon each Friday.

As he was getting on in years, the father handed him the reins of the business – with one caveat: the son was to carry on in the manner of his father, as well as close the business by noon each Friday in order to properly prepare for Shabbos.

The son readily accepted his father’s terms and held fast to them over many years, even after his father had passed on to the World of Truth. One day, an immensely profitable deal was on the table. Merchant and client met to work out all the pertinent details, the meeting taking place on a Friday and lasting well into the afternoon hours.

That night he was startled to see his father’s face in a dream. His heart palpitated as his father addressed him sternly and asked him to make an appearance at the Bais Din shel Maalah for defying their agreement.

The son soon felt himself being dragged by his father to the upper spheres where all at once thousands of malachim called for quiet to hear the kiddush of the tzaddik of the generation, the Yetev Lev.

Following this interval, his father wasted little time in stating his grievance, insisting that his son not be allowed to go back down due to his negligence in keeping his word.

The malachim created by the man’s many good deeds argued that this was but a minor infraction that did not constitute the desecration of Shabbos. It was finally decided that the rav of Sighet, would be consulted for a psak din. The Rav’s ruling was that the man be forgiven this time around but should take upon himself to avoid such incidents in the future.

After this fascinating experience, the man, who had never even heard of the Sigheter Rav, was determined to locate a descendant of his to express appreciation for the tzaddik‘s kindness to him. When he finally reached the city of Sighet and arrived at the Rebbe’s residence, he was shocked to come face to face with the tzaddik in his dream.

As Reb Moshe Aryeh concluded the story, he stated that while he was plenty familiar with the strengths and holiness of the Rebbe, this was the first time he’d been made privy to the holy Rebbe’s leverage in the upper world.

He’d kept his word and guarded the secret for many years… until one Friday night when someone with a debilitating condition came to the Rebbe for a blessing. The Yetev Lev looked pained but was verbally unresponsive, prompting Reb Moshe Aryeh to blurt out, “How is it that you can come to the aid of a person in need at the other end of the world with a psak din in the Heavenly Court yet hesitate to help one from nearby?”

The Yetev Lev turned to Reb Moshe Aryeh and asked him to never repeat this story for the duration of the Rebbe’s lifetime. Now that they were escorting the Yetev Lev’s holy remains to its resting place, Reb Moshe Aryeh Freund felt it to be the right time to let the mourners know of how great their loss was.

The Yetev Lev, famed for his devotion to his thousands of talmidim and chassidim, his ahavas Yisroel and his heavenly influence (poel yeshuos), left this world on the sixth day of Elul, on a Shabbos eve in the midst of the tefilahHashkiveinu” – as he mouthed the words “uvetzeil kenafecha tastireinu – and shelter us in the shadow of Your wings.”


Written l’ilui nishmas Frayda Chedva bas Yaakov Tovia a”h whose yahrtzeit falls on the fourth day in Elul.

Rachel Weiss

Preprogrammed For Greatness (Shabbos Nachamu)

Thursday, August 18th, 2016

Before the makkah (disease) Hashem prepares the refuah (cure). Within last week’s haftarah warning us about the impending doom we find a message of hope and salvation: “The ox knows its owner; the donkey the stall of its master; Yisrael doesn’t know, My nation doesn’t contemplate” (Yeshayahu 1:3).

Yeshayahu HaNavi began the rebuke of his nation with those words.

Rashi explains what he was saying. The ox doesn’t change its nature. It doesn’t say, “I will no longer plow.” The donkey doesn’t say, “I will no longer haul loads.” Each animal follows its nature, unquestioningly doing what it was created to do. Klal Yisrael, however, is different. You have veered off course and changed your ways. And so, you are lower than the animals created to serve you.

This Rashi is difficult to understand. When a man mounts a horse, the man may weigh 150 pounds, the horse more than 2,000. Yet the man commands the horse to ride, gallop, turn, and stop. And the horse obeys. Why does the huge, powerful horse submit to the will of the little, weak man?

The reason is because that is the nature of a horse. Its instinct is to obey. It doesn’t think about it. It doesn’t decide to yield. Built into the very being of the horse is a temperament of subservience to its master.

Man, however, wasn’t constructed that way. Man has conflicting wishes and desires. Man has forces pulling him in competing directions. So how can Rashi compare the nature of a beast, which was created to comply, to that of man, which is so different?

The answer to this question is based on a more focused understanding of human nature. Chovos Ha’Levovos (Sha’ar Avodas Elokim) explains that Hashem created man out of two distinct parts: the nefesh hasichli (soul) and the nefesh habahami (animal instincts). The nefesh hasichli comes from the upper worlds, and so it only wants to do that which is right and proper. It only wants to serve Hashem and accomplish great things. Its very nature is to strive for perfection.

The nefesh habahami, on the other hand, is shaped by base instincts and desires. Much like any animal in the wild kingdom, man was preprogrammed with all the impulses and drives needed for his survival. This part of man hungers for things. It doesn’t think about consequences or results. It can’t see into the future. It is made up of hungers and appetites.

Man is a synthesis – a perfect balance between two competing forces. If he chooses to listen to his pure nefesh, he grows and accomplishes, reaching his potential and purpose in Creation. If he chooses to listen to his animal instincts, then he destroys his grandeur and majesty, becoming lower than even the beheimah. What we know as free will is this ability to choose which of his natures he will listen to.

Preprogrammed for Greatness

This seems to be the answer to this Rashi. Man is preprogrammed for greatness. Half of man’s personality is screaming out for meaning, purpose, and greatness. There is a powerful instinct within him that only desires that which is proper. If man follows that side of his inner nature, he is pulled toward perfection. But that is the point; the need for perfection is built into his very nature. Deep within him is a hunger to grow, to accomplish, to do that which is noble and great. This isn’t something he needs to learn; it isn’t something he needs training in; it is part and parcel of his very being.

For a person to reach anything short of perfection, he must make a conscious choice: he must choose not to listen to the pulling of his soul.

Rabbi Ben Tzion Shafier

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/parsha/preprogrammed-for-greatness-shabbos-nachamu/2016/08/18/

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